Local economist Simon Medcalfe has a glass half-full view of Augusta’s economy for 2014.
As recovery from the last recession forges ahead and uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff and financial crisis in Europe has alleviated, Medcalfe sees a more favorable outlook for the local economy this year than he did in 2013 and previous years.
Medcalfe, an associate finance professor in Georgia Regents University’s Hull College of Business, told members of the business community Wednesday at the Summerville campus that Augusta had largely recovered the 7,000 local jobs lost from 2008 to 2009.
Employment numbers have rebounded to more than 216,000 jobs, Medcalfe said at GRU’s sixth annual economic forecast breakfast.
“For the first time since I’ve been doing this presentation, I really don’t see any big macro economic threat to the economy in the next year,” he said.
Medcalfe said the health services field, which he called the “bedrock” of the city’s economy, will continue to drive the local job market.
The sector remained resilient during the recession and has gained 2,500 jobs since 2010, he said.
Medcalfe also pinpointed the area’s housing, retail, leisure and hospitality, and transportation and utilities as sectors where he expects to see continued growth.
“Spending is increasing, particularly discretionary spending,” Medcalfe said.
“People are a little bit more confident now about the economy than they were two, three, four, five years ago. Because spending and employment is increasing in these sectors that bodes well for the economy in general as well.”
Tallying data compiled by local real estate firm Blanchard and Calhoun, Medcalfe said that average home prices across metro Augusta have jumped nearly 10 percent to about $164,000 when compared to what they were a year ago. The increase has been even sharper since February 2009, when homes sold on average for $145,000.
“The number of days houses are on the market is declining,” Medcalfe said. “The number of houses for sale is increasing.”
While Medcalfe had mostly good news for Augusta’s economic climate as a whole, he listed construction, manufacturing, financial and information as industries needing improvement.
In manufacturing, about 3,000 local jobs were lost since 2008 and an additional 1,500 positions were eliminated in logging, mining and construction. Neither sector has rebounded.
Augusta’s unemployment rate is currently at 7.5 percent, which is down from 8.6 percent this summer but still up from 7 percent in October 2008.